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New menstrual cycle tracking technology used by Wales during Six Nations

By Lucy Lomax
Hannah Jones, Elinor Snowsill and Cerys Hale stand together to promote Wales' new menstrual cycle tracking technology.

New landmark technology has been introduced to allow Wales Women to analyse how the menstrual cycle impacts performance, wellbeing and recovery.

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The Vodafone PLAYER.Connect platform is currently being used by Wales Women throughout the TikTok Women’s Six Nations 2023 campaign and beyond, making them the first women’s side to do so.

Recent studies show that 67% of female rugby players believe menstrual cycle related symptoms severely impact their performance while 93% of female rugby players have reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms. However so far there is limited guidance available on how players can best manage those symptoms, with only 6% of current sports science research focusing on female athletes.

More research is therefore needed into the female athlete with Vodafone working with Cardiff Metropolitan University on a long-term research study investigating the impact of the menstrual cycle on areas ranging from concussion and injury prevention to soreness, mood and sleep, using the data gathered from PLAYER.Connect app.

The platform gathers data on players’ performance, menstrual cycle phases and mental and physical wellbeing, by combining data from wearable devices such as GPS trackers in real-time. This is in addition to input from the players themselves, via daily morning monitoring– a series of questions answered by the players on arrival at training.

Digging deeper into the menstrual cycle has already had a significant impact on the squad’s training and preparation, with Wales fly-half Elinor Snowsill saying:

“Women’s sport is growing massively, it’s becoming absolutely huge globally, and the majority of females have a period, and that’s happening not just a couple of times a year, it’s happening every month. It’s happening 12 times a year for most females. So it’s really important that governing bodies become aware of this and do everything they can to support their athletes through that and just increase their awareness of it.

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“The app collects a whole lot of data from the players, from sleep tracking to mood, energy. It also collects whether we’ve got any injuries or soreness. But then most importantly, it also collects our menstrual cycle. What phase we’re in and what symptoms we are getting.

“So if a player comes in and they’ve got severe cramping or fatigue or anything like that, then the coaches and physios are aware of it already without us having to have that conversation. Because you don’t always want to go up to your head coach and tell him, ‘I’m on my period. I’m in a lot of pain today. Just, so you know, I might not be my best self or whatever’. So it’s just really handy to be able to put it in the app.”

Wales prop Cerys Hale said: “Previously, my experience with my menstrual cycle has probably been quite a negative one. I’ve come round to that time of month and I’m feeling really lethargic, it can affect my mood quite heavily. And sometimes I can I feel like going out the house potentially is not a comfortable thing to do because I worry about leakage.

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“When I was younger and going to training when I was bleeding on my cycle, some sessions I would miss because of it. But I was quite lucky that my parents really encouraged me to overcome that barrier and I do a bit of coaching myself and often I get girls messages, saying ‘oh I can’t make it today because I’m on my period,’ so it’s kind of breaking that stigma and also giving people the tools to be able to train while they’re on their period and use it to their advantage.

“I think tracking the menstrual cycle has been key for me. It gives you actual information on things you could do to better your nutrition around your menstrual cycle in certain phases or any tips on how to reduce some of your symptoms. And it’s just given me a bit more confidence that I’m putting my body in the right place to be able to perform.

“I’m very keen to share positive messages and have those conversations with people. It’s just making people aware that there are things to do to manage your symptoms. And also, you know, there are benefits of having a menstrual cycle as well, which I think is something that we’re not taught while we’re young and I think it’s something that’s really changed my game.”

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